The Penal Laws of the Old Testament

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Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The Penal Laws are often spoken of and much derided so I took the time to write them down. Below are all of the Laws of Moses that have a penal sanction. If I missed any let me know.

1) Ex. 21:12 - Premeditated Murder (Num. 36:16-22)

2) Ex. 21:15 - Smiting Father and Mother

3) Ex. 21:16 - Kidnapping (Deut 24:7)

4) Ex. 21:17 - Cursing Father and Mother ( Lev. 20:9, Deut 21:21)

5) Ex 21:20 - Killing Slaves

6) Ex. 21:22 - Killing Pregnant Woman (and child)

7) Ex. 21:29 - Depraved Indifference Murder

8) Ex. 22:18 - Witches

9) Ex. 22:19 - Bestiality (Lev. 20:15-16)

10) Ex. 22:20 - False Sacrifice

11) Ex. 22:21-24 - Oppressing Strangers

12) Ex. 22:22 - Afflicting Widows and Orphans

13) Ex. 22:14 - Sabbath-breaking (Num 15:32)

14) Lev. 20:2 - Child Sacrifice

15) Lev. 20:10 - Adultery (both partners, Deut 22:22)

16) Lev. 20:11 - Incest

17) Lev. 20:12 - Incest

18) Lev. 20:13 - Homosexuality

19) Lev. 20:14 - Unnatural Sexual Relations

20) Lev. 20:18 - Menstrual Relations

21) Lev. 21:9 - Daughter of a Priest that becomes a whore.

22) Deut 13:9 - False Prophets

23) Deut 17:5 - False Worship

24) Deut 19:19 - False Witness

25) Deut 22:21 - Whore promised in marriage (False Witness)

26) Deut 22:25 - Rape
Calvin has sections on what he calls "Judicial Supplements" or "Political Supplements" at the end of the commentary on each Commandment in his "Harmony of the Last Four Books of Moses".

You've not included the reparation and restitution, together with a sacrifice, for theft and delict, corporal punishment for certain offences, blood money in lieu of death or money in lieu of "an eye for an eye", etc.

Also the internal exile in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest for homicide short of murder; the drinking of the bitter water by the woman accused of adultery, etc.

You'd be better arranging all of the penal laws under their respective commandments.

The most presumptious breaches of the Ten Commandments which - as well as being the moral law - was a summary of the criminal law of Israel, all led to the deprivation of a sacrifice for sin, and the death penalty.

Under the Old Covenant - typologically at least - in this removal of access to the sacrificial system of the most presumptious offenders, there was not forgiveness for "all manner of sin and blasphemy" (Matt 12:31). But it partook of the imperfection of the shadowy system it was.

There was sometimes consultation with the Lord, or by the elders with the priests, respecting whether an offence had been presumptious enough to warrant the extreme sanction:

But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The Israelites as an under age Church or Congregation and typological Kingdom were taught about God's wrath in a way that the New Testament Church and modern nations are not.

There are certainly spiritual, moral, ecclesiastical, and "general moral equity" civic lessons to be gleaned from these laws.
The Penal Laws are often spoken of and much derided so I took the time to write them down. Below are all of the Laws of Moses that have a penal sanction. If I missed any let me know.

They should never be derided, but much of the Old Covenant could be derided if people wanted to e.g. the blood of bulls and goats pointing forward to the blood of God

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Acts 20:28)

The Kingdom of God typified by an earthly kingdom.

The penal laws of Israel partly typifying God's wrath against sin in Hell:
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

One may wonder why the Lord didn't just provide the Gospels for His people.

An adult may wonder why he was enamoured with his toys when he was a child, and will deride them as being suitable to his maturity.

But the Old Covenant way was how they needed to learn as a childhood Church, and this was provided for our learning too, although we are not under these laws or that Mosaic system in the childish sense in which they were.
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